So the motorsport season is back with a bang and a big one at that for my return trackside for the first round of the British GT championships at the weekend. Oulton Park was my destination to kick off the season and I was pretty excited. It was a bit like the first day back at school when you were a kid. Catching up with friends and seeing what was new.
It was to be my first visit to the Cheshire track and despite the five and a half hour journey up on the Friday and the 5.30 am fire alarm at the hotel on Saturday morning and having to stand around in sub zero temperatures in my PJ’s (Zoe Wenham and David Ashburn look similarly unimpressed) I was looking forward to checking out what Oulton Park had in store. Although it was cold, I was glad. I had packed my thermals, the sky was blue, the sun was out and the wind was still. Conditions were good as I headed out to shoot the first BGT practice session.
The field was impressive, despite one or two entries pulling out and the cars looked and sounded great in the morning sun. It was good to be back. Some even sported new liveries. A nod to the Tartan livery of Gregor Fiskin & Richard Westbrook’s Trackspeed Porsche which everyone seemed to like, unlike their team mates Porsche of David Ashburn & Nick Tandy who’s spotted entry divided opinion. I myself was a fan of the new look works Ginetta entry with a white, black and orange livery. Also, the Optimum BMW Z4′s look great in Carbon Black showing that you don’t need to do much to make a GT race car look good.
It became apparent early on that I liked the circuit. Spending the first session at Deer Leap and Lodge Corner, I was getting some nice angles and the session seemed to pass by rather quickly. My head was full of thoughts about where to go for the other sessions over the weekend. I didn’t want to miss some good spots and I still had so much to explore.
Discussions were had in the media centre as to where were good places to photograph and I needed opinions from other photographers who knew the circuit a lot better than an Oulton Park newbie like myself. I had decided to head round to the outside of the circuit on the far side to photograph down the hill towards the first chicane and to spend the hour long second practice working my way towards the Shell Oils hairpin. Just that section itself was a joy as again, there were so many different perspectives and angles to get and before long the session was drawing to a close. I was loving this circuit and was wishing it was a lot closer to home. I didn’t have chance to even think about how cold it was.
Qualifying was soon upon us and with cars all at maximum attack it was a good chance to head over to Druids where the crest on exit saw a few of the cars get light at the front and lifting a wheel or two. I was hoping to try and get a few shots of this. Soon after the first qualifying session got underway, a big accident from one of the GT4 Ginetta’s was to delay the session. It played into my hands somewhat as the sun was starting to set. I was thankful that the clocks hadn’t gone forward just yet as I had found a spot amongst the trees with the setting sun behind the farm on the opposite side of the track ready for the return of the cars. Despite the split second I had to capture the cars after appearing from view and then as quickly disappearing again, I was pleased with what I had managed to capture. Then, as the second qualifying session got underway, it was time to try and capture the cars over that crest.
The day drew to an end and I couldn’t wait till Monday to get back and photograph the two races, but in the mean time, I was happy with my days work. Saturday night involved a drive round Runcorn to try and find a supermarket so we could get some food for the next couple of days. Avoiding drunken and mischievous juveniles I was worried about stopping at traffic lights and junctions in case I got hijacked at knifepoint or had the wheels stolen off my car in a time that would make the Red Bull F1 team proud. After eventually finding not one but 4 supermarkets all close together it was time to stop at the local McDonalds for something to eat. It felt like I’d stepped into the holding room for the next episode of the Jeremy Kyle Show and was pretty sure they could tell I wasn’t from round these parts before I had even said anything. Needless to say I ate my Big Mac as quick as possible at a window seat so I could keep an eye on my car, before getting out of there sharp-ish and back to the hotel. People think my home county of Essex is bad? I’m used to a lot of stuff but I was genuinely feeling uncomfortable.
We were staying in a Holiday Inn and we had noticed the previous evening that it was apparent that there was a Wedding and a reception being held there on the Saturday. The latter in full flow as we had got back. Despite the Hotel being nice, I had questioned whether a Holiday Inn was really the sort of place you’d want to get married, but each to their own. There was enough fake tan around to keep Amy Childs beauty salon stocked up for a year and I noticed a popularity for drawing on eyebrows with black marker pen giving the wearer a permanent angry expression which amused me as the angry looking orange faced girls struggled to walk properly in their ridiculous platform high heeled shoes. Even an Essex boy like myself was out of my comfort zone and decided to leave the hotel bar and head for bed.
With no track action on Sunday, the day was spent watching the British Touring Car Championship on the TV in the hotel room before a meal out in the evening with friends. I struggled to get to sleep that night trying to work out the best places at Oulton to shoot the two races on Monday.
The morning was again very cold and this time the skies were cloudy and overcast. Not as good conditions as Saturday but I was grateful it wasn’t raining. I headed to the pit lane to shoot the 10 minute warm up session before deciding where to got for Race One. It was soon upon us and a few minutes were spent on the grid as the cars lined up before I headed down to the first corner. I wanted to capture the impressive Class of 2013 as they headed into the first corner of the season. They looked fantastic as they headed towards myself and the other photographers around me. I fired off shots of the first half of the field heading into the bend before turning to shoot them disappearing down the hill. Big mistake.
With myself pointing my camera down the hill I was unaware of what was happening to my right. The first indication of something not being right was seeing the two photographers to my left out of the corner of my eye suddenly run for cover. I wasn’t up against the barrier but stepped back just as a Mercedes SLS and an Aston Martin appeared and hit the tyres and Armco in front of me. I hadn’t heard the shout of ‘Incoming’ and had been taken by surprise. Thankfully no one was hurt and despite the Aston being able to carry on, only to retire a few laps later, the Mercedes had managed to move to a safer spot on the other side of the track, but is was clearly game over with too much damage to continue. Not the best way to start the new season for them and certainly an unexpected one for me.
I spent race one photographing while heading down the hill towards cascades. It wasn’t long before more drama unfolded though. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from the other side of the circuit as the LNT Ginetta G55 had burst into flames. Again though, thankfully no one was hurt. The hour had passed quickly and the race had come to an end as I was at the bottom of the hill at cascades. Plenty of action had taken place for the season opener and it was only a few hours until race two was about to get underway.
I took up position for the second race at the bottom of the hill at cascades, only this time on the inside of the circuit to shoot the cars heading down the hill and enabling myself to then photograph the second chicane and Knickerbrook before making my way up the hill towards druids. The first half of the race seemed to go to smoothly before major incidents broke out. The second Ginetta G55 burst into flames leaving driver Colin White to leap out quickly whilst heading up the hill to Deer leap. Also, there was a big accident involving Jon Minhaw’s Trackspeed Porsche and Andrew Howards Aston Martin at the chicane I had been at earlier in the race, so I didn’t manage to get that on camera and one of the Mtech Ferrari’s collided heavily with the APO Ginetta G50. It seemed to me that I had been too close to the action or too far away in the wrong place to capture any of it.
But it didn’t matter, I had a great weekend and I had experienced a new circuit which I loved. Oulton is now threatening Brands Hatch GP as my favourite UK circuit. Next up for me, the World Endurance Championships and European Le Mans Series at Silverstone.
The second part of my review series see’s my Race of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to see some really great races this season but two really stood out for me and it was tough to pick between them, but my final choice was made due to what was at stake and how many teams were involved. I hope you agree with my choice.
It would be obvious of me to pick the British GT race at Brands Hatch and it was difficult not to, but one other race just pips it in terms of build up, excitement, heart break, lead changes and down to wire racing. The British GT season Finale at Donington had it all.
With five driver pairings heading into the final race knowing that a race win would seal championship honours and two more pairings still with a good chance of the title, it was set to be a real ding dong battle.
Yet again, Alex Buncombe did the business with one of his trade mark opening stints to climb from midfield obscurity to race lead in the opening laps. He handed over to team mate Jann Mardenborough with a healthy lead knowing that taking the chequered flag in their current position would crown them champions. Just a couple of laps into his Jann’s stint and disaster struck. Rear suspension failure on the Nissan put paid to all title hopes and it was heartbreak for Jann and the rest of the JRM team. This then but the Championship into the hands of Matt Griffin and Duncan Cameron. But the MTech Ferrari had to deal with the Rosso Verdi Ferrari whilst the Ecurie Ecosse BMW was closing in. A safety car period enabled the BMW to close in and an ambitions move from Ollie Bryant in the BMW at the Final hairpin meant contact with Griffin sending him into a spin, down the order and giving the BMW the Championship lead with just a few laps left. However, a drive through penalty for Bryant ended their chance of championship honours and gifting them to the Motorbase Porsche of Parfetti and Caine with the latter just needing to bring the car home safely to take the title which he did.
So what about you? What was your race of 2012? Let us know using the comment section below.
The weekend before last saw the Britcar Endurance Championship and Production Cup head to Donington Park for an into the night race. A unique race that in theory should have bought many endurance race fans and motorsport fans in general to take in the action at Donington.
Sadly that wasn’t the case. Whether it was the early rain that engulfed the qualifying session for the Production Cup or the cold temperatures later in the day but a good days racing was missed. With a 90 minute production cup race, the four hour endurance race finishing under the cover of darkness and the Smart4two cup on the bill there was plenty of action to see.
The rain cleared up after the morning and a damp track provided plenty of action in the production cup. The few fans who did turn up got a chance to see BTCC Independent Champion Andy Jordan Partner his father in a Honda Integra and take a solid second place overall. The fans were also given a chance to take part in a grid walk before the Start of the Endurance race given them a chance to get up close to the cars including Porsche’s, Ferrari’s, a Mosler, and a Dodge Viper. The Viper belonging to last year’s Britcar Champions Craig Wilkins & Aaron Scott who returned to take part after a season in the Blancpain Endurance Championship with their new Audi R8. Also joining them were the popular 2010 champions Witt Gamski and Keith Robinson along with John Gaw who were to eventually triumph after a close fought battle with the Viper.
However, it was to be the Bullrun team’s Lotus Evora of Richard Adams, David Green & Martin Byford who would take the overall Championship Title for 2012 after a consistent and successful campaign throughout the year.
The good thing about night racing is that I get to play about with light trails and as the evening drew in I got my chance. Trying different angles and places to see what worked and what didn’t. From both trackside and spectator area’s I was quite pleased with what I managed to get. It had even taken my mind off how cold it had become although I was looking forward to a coffee back in the media room.
It was a good day at Donington and a good opportunity to catch up with friends before the winter break sets in and an evening out in Derby with friends topped it off. There is another chance to see some more into the night racing though this season as Britcar head to Brands Hatch on the 24th of November when it is the Production Cup who get the chance to sample the night racing. If you want something to do that weekend then you could do worse than wrap up warm and head to Brands Hatch to sample the racing.
The four hour race report can be read on the Checkered Flag website here.
Having not shot a single race weekend in the whole of October and with a number of championships having finished for the season, I still haven’t finished for the year.
I know it is pretty much unheard of to have two weekends away from the track during the season so a whole month is unchartered territory. Various reasons have kept me away, including a well earned holiday comprising of just me, my bike and some awesome tracks in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. But I’m ready and rearing to go as there is one Championship that still has two races left and those two races are a little bit special. So if you are a motorsport fan I would recommend you check them out.
The MSA British Endurance Championship (Britcar) & the Production Cup head to Donington park this weekend. The first race of the Championship since the 24hr event at Silverstone sees the Endurance Championship compete in a four hour into the night race. It’s a unique race experience that many motorsport fans won’t have witnessed. It’s a bit like a mini 24hr race where you can experience the conditions of day and night racing but in four hours. It’s a definite charm to it and well worth going to check out.
As usual, the Production Cup will be there in support who will have their own into the night race later in November at Brands Hatch so there will be another chance to see the night time racing. With this weekend’s entry list boasting cars from the likes of Ferrari, Porsche, Mosler, Aston Martin, Audi and Marcos, it is sure to be an exciting event with some great racing. I’m really looking forward to it as last year’s into the night race was a great success.
On another note and following up from a previous blog post last week, my A3 calendars are now available to order from my website. The very limited edition calendars featuring images from the British GT, World Endurance Championship, GT Open & the Nurburgring 24 hour race is priced at £29.99 including postage & packaging. You can see the calendar and every months image as well as order your copy here: http://www.chrisgurtonphotography.com/2013_calendar.html
A couple of weeks ago, the British Touring Car Championship headed north of the border for its annual trip to Scotland and the Knockhill circuit. Again it was a weekend of high drama and yet again one man in particular was right in the centre of it all.
I initially decided not to write about this particular incident, which saw Aron Smith make contact with Jason Plato sending the latter off into the gravel and out of the race. Previous blogs expressing my opinions of Jason Plato and his attitude and behaviour have generally been met with agreement. However some fans of the outspoken racing driver, who’s lead has clearly been followed by those who support him and have decided to be very critical of my own opinions. Some been quite personal but many claiming I know nothing about what I am saying. Somewhat Ironic in many cases.
So you can imagine my delight in a saviour in an unexpected form. There were so many things I wanted to say about Jason Plato and his attitude, behaviour, driving and his somewhat scathing and hugely hypocritical comments live on TV. One man saved me the trouble of writing down my views, as he had already done so. This man? The Boss of Motorbase Performance Dave Bartrum. A BTCC race winning team and also a British GT winning team too. So this Man cannot be accused of not knowing what he is talking about.
Dave had written a blog about the weekend at Knockhill which included a large section about Jason Plato which went like this:
“The only sour note of the weekend was Jason Plato’s reaction to the incident with Aron. I realise he will see it his way and we will see it ours, that’s natural. I was disappointed in the penalty which TOCA gave us because we’ve been on the receiving end of nearly identical incidents with Aron & Rob Austin in round 1, TOCA verdict – Racing incident, Liam & Lea Wood at Croft, TOCA verdict – Racing incident. Someone does it to Plato, TOCA verdict – 3 points & a £500 fine. Is it because its Plato? Maybe, who knows? With that in mind when we heard that 888 & Plato had appealed we were surprised, turns out Jason wanted more! He even suggested that Aron had a job to do on him! What can you say to this? Paranoid maybe?
Jason is supposed to represent British Motorsport, in two roles even beyond his role in the BTCC with MG & 888. He is the face of the KX young driver programme mentoring young aspiring drivers & has a major role at the BRDC as a Director. Yet despite all of this he remains the most outspoken, shouting his mouth of to anyone who will listen about how badly everyone else drives! Sorry, am I missing something? Is this the same Jason Plato who rammed Matt Neal off in a fit of rage/revenge at Snetterton, the same Jason Plato who rammed Gordon Shedden of at the last corner of Donington after pushing him along the back straight whilst Gordon tried to brake, and the same Jason Plato who simply disposed of Dave Newsham disgracefully at the first race of the season? And that’s just this year. He has been one incident away from a 3 month ban for a little while due to his own indiscretions on track in the last 12 months. Pot and kettle spring to mind!
He suggested Aron doesn’t deserve a race licence. Quite frankly, he is the man who needs banning from the championship. Why TOCA didn’t give him points for his revenge mission at Snetterton on Matt Neal is anybodies guess! Probably because he has so many points already. MG & his sponsors should think twice before renewing his contract if he continues to behave like this. He makes damning statements that other teams and drivers are merely ‘playing at this’ and we’re just ‘pretenders’ unlike the paid professional drivers. At most, if this was the case there would be a 3 car grid, this is modern day Motorsport. I amongst other would love to have the budgets of yesteryear and be able to pick two fully paid drivers like Andy Neate & Jason Plato as 888 have been able to this year!
How he keeps a job with the BRDC is beyond me. He is a Director in the most influential club in British Motorsport, he is in a role which people need to respect him and look upon his as someone who sets an example of how a race driver conducts himself both on and off the circuit. In my opinion he does neither! It’s a joke that they have someone with such low regard for fellow competitors and young drivers in such a position. It’s hypocritical. There is a new young driver programme which he is fronting. He then accuses Aron of being ‘a pretender’ because he pays for his drive. Will that be the same for all the drivers under his management who are paying for their drive? I doubt it, I’m sure he will change his mind then! Quite frankly no driver having been mentored by him would be welcome in a race car of mine.
All of that said I do respect his driving ability, he is clearly very talented. He also puts on a great show for the public, who seemingly love a bad boy. Maybe we’re just another part of his show this week. I just think if he kept his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself the world would be better for it. I can only assume, and half understand that Aron is on the receiving end of his passion from the reality that Jason’s Championship received a massive dent at the weekend due to him making a mistake of his own by drifting over into Aron, giving Aron very few options. Jason made the uncharacteristic error in which he lost out, something he doesn’t do very often. I think most drivers would have driven exactly how Aron did, and the others probably would have ended up in the gravel themselves!”
This is worryingly almost exactly what I wanted to say on the matter and many will know I have been saying similar for a long time, but only this time, hopefully, I won’t get abuse from certain people so thanks Dave.
Now even the most hardcore Jason Plato fans must take on board some of these comments and surely see Dave has a very good point. I am however, not criticising people for wanting to be a fan of Mr Plato though. I have said it before and say it yet again. The guy has great driving ability there is no argument there. But is he really a role model to those who do support him? Especially the younger generation. Is the do as I say not as I do attitude setting a good example? Is the constant moaning and criticising of the rules and others inspirational for others? Lots of Plato fans say he is a hero and legend. But is this really the way a hero should conduct himself?
Two words I have just used are thrown about far too much in describing sports stars and mostly unnecessarily. Hero and Legend. I’m going to stick my neck out on the line here and risk further abuse by saying Plato is neither of these. Good yes. But not hero or legend. Why? I’ll tell you why.
A Hero or Legend is not just someone who reaches the very top of their discipline, but someone who inspires others. Someone who sets a good example to others, overcomes adversity, conducts themselves well and shows a good, positive attitude and strives to achieve. But most of all, someone others can look up to. A role model who people want to emulate. After the Summer of Olympic and Paralympic games, it is clear there are many that put the MG BTCC racing driver in the shade.
For motorsport fans though, If you want a real Hero, Legend and Inspiration, look no further than Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi. The Italian ex Formula one driver suffered a horrific crash in 2001 in the Champ car series and subsequently lost his legs. Whilst many of us, faced with this for the rest of our lives would wallow in self pity and hate the life that you now face. Alex didn’t. He continued do race for a few years after his legs were amputated, but he had his heart set on one goal. The Paralympics.
Without moaning, complaining or criticising, Alex set out to achieve this goal. Training hard in the face of adversity, all this hard work came to fruition last week. The road cycling took place at Brands Hatch, somewhat poignant in this incredible story and Alex Zanardi was there to represent Italy in the hand cycling with his unique three wheeled bicycle which was no doubt designed with the help of some of his friends within formula one. The British crowd were there in their thousands to cheer and support the participants with many motorsport fans there to support Zanardi.
All the hard work and determination came to fruition for the Italian which saw him take two Gold medals and a Silver. The delight within the motorsport fraternity was clear to see. This man’s incredible journey in the face of adversity had come good and he had reached the very peak. This man is a genuine Hero. A true Legend. And an Inspiration to all.
Dave Bartrum’s full blog can be read here.
Its been a busy few weeks for me and my blog has been neglected somewhat of late and the distraction of the Olympics hasn’t helped so I thought it would be time for a bit of a catch up before I head to Snetterton this weekend for the British Touring Car Championship.
Over the last couple of weeks I have been taking photos for the local Pony Club Junior and Intermediate camps. Not quite the fast paced adrenaline fuelled action I see trackside but it is still good fun. The weather was good for both weeks, and I’m always treated well there by the organisers. Despite the hard work it is always worth it and I do enjoy covering the Camps. I don’t get to photograph equestrian events as much as I used to and I do miss it at times so it’s always nice to go back to where my sports photography all began.
The weekend just passed It was back to the track and the first weekend of three in a row at Snetterton. The British GT & F3 Championships headed to the Norfolk circuit and I was there to photograph my favourite UK championship. Initial weather forecasts were promising, but those who have been to Snetterton will know how unpredictable the weather can be there. The place seems to have its own micro climate and the best option is to pack for all conditions.
This was definitely the case as despite the dry relatively sunny conditions all morning, black clouds gathered during second practice for the GT’s and when a red flag was put out for an off from Ollie Milroy in the Ecurie Ecosse BMW, the heavens took this cue to open. Thankfully I could see this and the thunder and lightning coming and as soon as the red flag made an appearance I made a bee line for the safety of the media centre. Within minutes the down pour had flooded the circuit and the pit lane. The GT cars were not going to head out in those conditions and the session finished. Subsequent race and qualifying sessions were to be delayed until after the rain stopped so areas of standing water on the track could be pumped away.
The rain delay meant the GT qualifying, due last on the timetable had to be dropped. Grid positions for both 1 hour races were to be decided by the 2 practice session times. This played into the hands of the Trackspeed Porsches as it was pole in race one for the 31 car and pole in race two for the 33 car.
Sunday was to be a new day but the unpredictable weather returned. Heavy rain returned and disrupted the rescheduled timetable meaning the second Ginetta Challenge race of the day had to be dropped to avoid breaking the curfew. It also meant the F3 cars had to take on the elements but Both GT races avoided the wet and had two dry races. The new McLaren MP4-12C of United Autosports Charles Bateman and Matt Bell took a debut win for the car in the championships meaning it was a remarkable seven different winners from the seven races so far in the season. It looked to be a possible eight different winners from eight races in race two as after the pit stops the Trackspeed Porsche of Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey led comfortable but a fuel pressure problem meant they dropped back to second place leaving team mates Joe Osborne and Steve Tandy to take their second win of the season. For full race reports, visit the Checkered Flag website here.
With just two points separating the top five drivers in the championship, it is all up for grabs over the remaining two rounds at Silverstone and Donington Park and it looks set to go right down to the wire. Despite Lotus not making an appearance in GT4 at their home circuit and the Jones Brothers Mercedes also absent an addition to the field was the Rhino’s Leipert Motorsport Lamborghini LP600 of Hari Prozcyk and Marco Attard. It was a welcome addition and even with the absentee’s 12 different manufacturers were represented on the grid with the possibility of this increasing to 14 for the next round. As you can see that is a pretty impressive field and one of the reasons British GT is so great.
So next for me is the British Touring Car Championship back in Norfolk after their long summer break. I haven’t photographed the Touring cars for some time due to calendar clashes and it seems like a long time since I last shot them at Donington. I really hope the weather stays dry and I’m sure the thousands of fans who I know will be heading there will be hoping the same.
Photos from the F3 and GT Races and sessions can be seen on my Facebook page.
It’s been a busy few weeks for me so as I sit down to write this blog it seems like the topic was a long time ago now. However, I couldn’t let it pass without me writing about how great the Silverstone Classic was this year.
It is always a highlight of my year and this year was no exception. I have a fondness for classic cars and it is great to see so many of these awesome machines from my childhood and well before, doing what they were designed to do. Race. This year’s event saw the addition of a new race category for Touring cars from 1970-2000. This was to be a hugely popular race with the spectators and the addition of current BTCC favourite, Frank Wrathall to the field in a 1995 Vauxhall Cavalier enticed support even more.
For me, the headline race was the Saturday evening Group C race into dusk. I love the awesome 1980’s Le Mans cars and there was an awesome array of Group C and C2 cars taking part. A favourite had to be the Jagermeister Porsche 962. An Iconic car of the time in an iconic livery. A Peugeot 905 with Nicolas Minassian at the wheel on the entry list was also of huge significance. Sadly, despite qualifying second on the Friday, the car was not to take to the track for either of the two races during the weekend. A bitter blow to many, but Minassian was to take to the Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit for Sunday’s race in one of the three Lancia LC2’s.
Another popular race was the Grand Prix Masters race for formula one cars of the 70’s & 80’s featuring cars such as McLaren M26’s, Arrows A4’s and Williams FW07’s. Remarkably this race was to be the first ever to feature two six wheeled formula one cars. A Tyrell P34 and a March 2-4-0 were to take part much to many people’s delight.
With 13 races on the Saturday and a further 11 on the Sunday there was plenty of on track action to keep the crowed entertained and the high quality and close racing in some of the world’s most beautiful, recognisable and valuable cars, whether it classic GT’s or pre 1956 sports cars or even pre 1961 front engined Grand Prix cars along with many well known drivers past and present, there was something for every motorsport fan young and old.
As if all the on track action wasn’t enough, the many thousands of cars on display from various car clubs was magnificent to see. Cars from Lamborghini, Lotus, Aston Martin, AC Cobras even a bselection of Lancia Delta’s. This year’s Silverstone Classic celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40. One of the world’s most recognizable super cars and the stuff of fantasy for every boy, like myself, who grew up in the 80’s. To mark this occasion, a parade of F40’s took to the track on Sunday setting a record for the most Ferrari F40’s on track together at the same time. There were over 60 in total from all over the world and what a brilliant sight they were under the hot sun. An experience I will not forget in a hurry.
There were trade stands a plenty for you to spend your money and activities for all ages to keep the whole family occupied. The Sun came out to make up for the wet Friday and the weekend was another fantastic event. The Silverstone Classic goes from strength to strength and I am already looking forward to next year’s event. If you haven’t been, then I would highly recommend it. You won’t leave disappointed.
I havent got round to sorting all my photos from the weekend yet, but you can see some Group C ones here. Also, If you like the Chris Gurton Photography page on Facebook, you will be updated when new galleries will be added.
After their separate European exploits, the British GT & F3 cavalcade rolled into Corby at the weekend for their next round of the 2012 season. I was of course in attendance and it turned out to be another good weekend.
The weather turned out to be nice albeit a little chilly and windy on the Saturday, the racing was good, the cars looked great and the B&B I had booked for the weekend was great despite initially giving myself and James a double room when I had specifically booked a twin. This wasn’t the first time it’s happened but it was all sorted without hassle.
It was nice to catch up with friends again and I even met a few new ones. The joy of twitter is that you sometimes get to meet people you chat to on there. I have a great following of motorsport fans and have been lucky enough to meet some of them in person at race weekends. It’s always nice to meet the people you chat to online who share your love of motorsport. I have met some really great people thanks to twitter and I hope to meet many more in the future.
This weekend was the first time I had seen the F3 cars in action this season. I had missed the Oulton Park round at Easter and wasn’t at the European rounds either so it was good to shoot them. Carlos Sainz JR headed into the weekend the championship favourite, but had a disappointing round at the Rockingham circuit. With three races held over the weekend, there were three different race winners. Jazeman Jaafar took the first race victory and Tops the current driver standings whilst British duo Harry Tincknell and Jack Harvey took race two and three honours with the latter moving into second place in the standings ahead of Sainz JR. Race reports can be read here with an album of photos of the F3 on my Facebook page here or on my Flickr album here.
One of the great things about having Carlos Sainz JR in the British F3 championship is that his father isn’t far away. It’s great to see one of my motorsport hero’s strolling around the pits and paddock with designer sunglasses and smart/casual attire looking like a film star. What also pleases me is that he often poses for photos with fans young and old.
On their return from Germany, the GT’s were to compete in a two hour race rather than the usual two, one hour race format. Ex BTCC and Porsche Carrera cup racer Stephen Jelley partnered Steve Parish in the number 10 Motorbase Porsche in place of Nick Tandy and with his only two BTCC race wins coming at Rockingham, it was clear he gets on well at the Corby circuit as he set the pole position time. The race took place on the Sunday afternoon and despite the sky clouding over, the rain held off for a dry race. Alex Buncombe stormed through the field from ninth on the grid in the RJN Nissan GT Academy GTR to take the lead and Anthony Reid was going strong in the plucky Chevron GR8.
Unfortunately disaster struck. The safety car was deployed thanks to a big impact. The Beechdean Aston Martin of Andrew Howard suffered a slow puncture which sent the car into the wall at turn one on the banking at high speed. The car was left in a bad way, but Andrew Howard was thankfully left unscathed if a little dazed and confused. A real testament to the safety technology within motorsport these days.
As the safety car returned to the pits, the pitstop window had opened with a number of cars taking advantage of the bunched up pack to make their stops. Unfortunately a brake balance issue in the RJN Nissan GTR left GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough having to fight the car whilst dropping down the field before finishing in fifth place. As the race progressed, it was getting close at the front. With minutes left it could have gone either way, but at the Chequered flag, it was Joe Osborne at the wheel of the 32 Trackspeed Porsche he partnered with Steve Tandy closely followed by the Ferrari 458 of Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen and the second Trackspeed Porsche of David Ashburn and Phil Keen. In fact, the top four places were separated by less than five seconds with Championship leaders, Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin and their Mtech Ferrari 458 taking the fourth spot. This was pretty close after 2 hours of racing. Whoever says endurance racing is boring needs to reconsider and with five different winners from the five races so far this season, it looks set to be a real thriller of a championship. The race report can be read on the Checkered Flag website here with photos on my Facebook Page and Flickr Album.
I won’t be trackside this weekend so my next race will be the British GT & F3’s at Brands Hatch on June the 23rd & 24th. My favourite British race series on my favourite British circuit, The Brands Hatch GP layout, I cannot wait.
In the mean time, there is a small race taking place this weekend across the channel. It is of course the Le Mans 24 hour race. I am of course greatly disappointed that I won’t be there this year but I’m not sure it will be such a close race as it was in 2011 with the absence of Peugeot. However there are lots of other things that make the race so awesome and I will be trying my best to watch as much as I can online. The GT classes look set to be close as does LMP2 and with lots of British drivers and teams taking part, it really is worth watching what you can.
As the clock ticked past midnight and into the Witching hour it was time to head back out of the media centre. We wanted to capture some light trails during the night and decided we would head out to the Karussell.
After parking up beside the muddy track and having stumbled through the trees and undergrowth in the dark, we were greeted by the English Marshalls there. They were quick to put the kettle on for us as I set about getting to work with my tripod and shutter release cable. The Karussell was just as awesome at night and sparks flew, brake discs glowed and engines echoed through the trees. The temperature was still warm too so it didn’t seem like we were up during the early hours.
I stood talking to the Marshalls with my knees up against the Armco barrier and I heard a clang then felt a thud. It was if something had come off a car and hit the barrier where we were. I wondered what it could be. It felt quite solid. A wheel nut maybe? A quick conversation by the Marshall’s over their radio revealed the source. A car had hit the barrier at the bottom of the hill. The impact was about three or four hundred meters away from where I was standing but could still feel it. I was glad I wasn’t standing any further down the hill. Tales from the Marshall’s soon followed about incidents where they have been hit by debris. It made me remember that being trackside can be dangerous. Especially as close as we were on the Nordschleife. Something that I don’t think about when I’m out shooting. The Marshalls even told us that at some points on the circuit which are particularly narrow and the Armco is close to the track edge, that when they wave yellow or white flags, some cars pass and clip the end of the flags! These guys in orange really need to be applauded.
I wandered down the hill to capture some light trails going up towards the Karussell. I could see the extent of the crash as I got down there. A BMW Z4 had it the barrier head on quite hard. The service crew were there and had the area coned off. Cars were forced to the other side of the narrow track but were very obliging of the safety crew and Marshall’s waved yellow flags slowing right down to a crawl past the scene before getting on the power past me and up the hill. The BMW was towed away in quite a mess. The scene was tidied up quickly and before long the only visible sign of an accident was a slightly damaged Armco and some sand on top of a fluid leak. Cars were back to full speed up the hill and I was standing pretty close. Knowing one car had hit the barrier and the possibility of a slippery surface due to the spilled fluid, I wasn’t going to hang about here for long and made my way back up the hill.
Time was passing by quite quickly and it would be first light soon so we decided to make a move and come back to the Karussell later during daylight hours. Parking up at the bottom of the hill near Hocheichen we walked up the hill through the campsite to Hatzenbach. Walking through the array of tents, small marquee’s and caravans, traversing piles of rubbish, empty beer bottles and bonfires as well as the occasional fan sleeping on the bare ground I was feeling surprisingly alert. It was about 5 am and I was starting to think to myself that I could last till the end of the race quite comfortably at this rate. Pausing to glance back at the cars snaking down the hill behind us and saying hello to the occasional fan, some of which still happily down beer I was in high spirits.
Having reached the top of the hill we headed to the outside of the first corner on the Nordschleife. The cars would come off the Grand Prix circuit, head towards us and then drop down the twisty first section of the ‘Green Hell’. As I paused to watch the cars head towards me with headlights ablaze it happened. I had hit the wall. All of my energy had been drained. I was struggling to focus let alone look through a view finder. But I was here. I had walked up the hill and I wasn’t going to let the opportunity of taking photos pass so I carried on regardless. I was firing off shots unsure if what I was getting was of any use. My eyes had given up even bothering to focus on anything and I couldn’t see if the images on the rear screen were any good either. I had glanced up at Kev. He was struggling too. I think he had become somewhat delirious as he had started singing odd made up songs. Trying to ignore the fact that my body was urging me to rest I carried on shooting in the hope something would be useable.
The decision to stop was soon made for us. I felt a few spots of rain. I wasn’t sure if it was actually starting to rain or I was just hallucinating. I could definitely fell it get a bit heavier and the Marshall’s were now waving the yellow and red Slippery surface flags. Time to head back. We got in the car and made our way to the media car park. We needed to sleep but weren’t sure to sleep in the car or the media centre. Realising James would be in the media centre and no doubt bouncing off the walls high on caffeine, chocolate and e-numbers it was decided best that we slept in the car. I was out like a light.
I woke up just as Kevin did. I actually felt pretty refreshed. How long had I slept for? Had I missed the race? The rain had stopped and the sun was out. Glancing at the time it was 9am. Phew, I was only asleep for two hours but thankfully it felt like longer and I was recharged. Time for some coffee and a bite to eat before heading back to the media centre to empty memory cards and catch up on the goings on.
I was right. James was still in a Sugar induced high and was loving every minute of the experience. I was slightly envious. How can he manage it but I can’t? He’s only a few years younger than me. Then I realised, He doesn’t walk miles lugging camera’s and kit around. I wasn’t complaining though. I wouldn’t change that for the world. I love doing it.
Having been fed and watered it was time to make a move again. We decided to head out to the Karussell again then one or two other areas before the race finish. Back at the banked hairpin and with the Marshalls again, I felt revitalized. The sun was beating down and the cars still looked magnificent. Albeit a little dirtier and some sporting a few dents, scrapes and a moderate amount of race tape. After all, this was endurance racing at it most difficult and cars still running at this point had achieved so much already. I was merrily snapping away, trying different angles and perspectives of the corner having a great time a number of other photographers were now at the hairpin all looking pretty happy. Life was good.
Time passed by rapidly and due to an unforeseen circumstance, we weren’t able to head to a different area before the race end. However we made it back to the media room for the race finish and in time to see the battle for third place between one of the Porsche’s and a Mercedes SLS in the dying minutes. It was exciting stuff but no one was prepared for what was about to unfold.
As the Clock ticked down, the Porsche powered down the long straight with the Mercedes right on its bumper. Into the last few corners before busting into the Grand Prix circuit. The clocked hadn’t quite reached the 4 o’clock mark and they would need to complete another lap. Game On. We moved to the windows to see the cars come down the pit straight to start their last lap. Or so we thought. The Mercedes roared past. Where was the Porsche? It had slowed. Coming towards the line it was almost crawling along. What was wrong? Was there a mechanical issue? Had it run out of petrol? Or had it completely miss timed everything thinking the chequered flag would be out and throwing third place away in the process? The lead Audi was yet to come through and the Porsche had crossed the line almost coming to a standstill towards the other side of the track from the pit wall. Cars were still coming through however. One of which was a Renault Clio still travelling at speed. I could see him coming towards the Porsche. He must have seen it. He’s definitely seen it right? Why isn’t he moving across? He didn’t see it. Smash. Gasps and groans reverberated around the Media Centre. The Clio ploughed into the back of the Porsche at high speed. Debris littered the track distracting everyone from the Leading Audi R8 that was about to take the flag and victory.
Confusion reigned as Cars took the chequered flag amongst the numerous waved yellow ones and Marshalls rallying around to clear up the mess which had now ruined the Grandstand photo finish for the factory Aston Martin team. As the Zagato, flanked by the two Vantages headed towards the line the left hand Vantage had to tuck in behind avoid the debris. The race was over in bizarre fashion.
It was a peculiar end to an amazing experience but it was now all over. Sitting outside the Italian restaurant that evening with a cold beer and a pizza I was left reflecting on my first experience of the Nurburgring Nordschleife and the 24hr race. It had been incredible. The place was just spectacular and I was spoilt with the variety of places to photograph from. You will never get a full appreciation for how incredible the place is until you see it for real. How narrow, twisty and undulating it really is. It gives you a renewed appreciation for racing drivers and the balls, guts, determination and fearlessness they must have to take on such circuit in the high powered machinery they do. A lot of people tell me that they think endurance racing is boring. Firstly, these people clearly have no attention span and secondly they have definitely never been to the Nurburgring to see the 24hr race.
This led me on to a new appreciation. That of the Fans. These people were incredible. They were friendly, likeable and their dedication know no bounds. They never ceased to amaze me throughout the week. They were proper hardcore motorsport fans and they were loving every minute of it. At the risk of upsetting a few people, they made the Le Mans 24hr look like a holiday camp. And I’ve been to Le Mans more than once!
Finally I’d like to thank everyone who made my first trip to the Nurburgring so amazing and special. From all the Germans who were friendly, kind and helpful, to all the media for the laughs and the teams for putting up with the photographers poking around and getting in the way. Last but not least I have to give a huge thank you to Kevin at Red Square Images. Without him my trip probably wouldn’t have been possible and his knowledge of the area helped me so much. Thank You Kev I really appreciate what you have done for me.
The Nordschleife is affectionately known as the ‘Green Hell’ but to me, the place was motorsport Heaven.
I will be going back.
Saturday was soon upon us. Race day! It was another early start for us as although the 24 hour race didn’t start until 4pm, the second British GT race was starting at 9.15am so we needed to be there before that to photograph it.
It was another great race and the field of British GT cars looked superb in front of the thousands of on looking fans. Hopefully this weekend will have helped raise the profile of the British GT championship. It was the Ferrari 458 of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin that took the victory overcoming the numerous Porsches which were seemingly going to dominate the second of the two races. A full race report can be read here.
After the race, there was time for some rest in the media room before the main event. The Porsche Carrera cup Deutschland and Renault Clio cup took place and we were able to watch the action out on the Nordschleife on the TV screens whilst sorting photos from the British GT race and making plans for the 24 hour race. I also went to the souvenir stands to pick up a few bits. My Laptop is now sporting an obligatory Nürburgring Sticker.
It was decided to shoot the start of the race from out on the Nordshleife rather than at the first corner where most of the photographers would be. So an hour or so before the race, I had packed what I needed and we headed out. We headed to the inside of Pflanzgarten but at the top of the hill to see the cars come over the crest. Opposite us on the other side of the track was a McDonalds Drive through sign. Not a made up one. An actually proper sign that lit up. Somewhere in Germany a McDonalds was missing their sign! The Germans who were camped out there were already on the beers and like most of the fans, probably had been since Monday.
As the race start neared the German national anthem came on over the tannoy system. The boozed up guys opposite us stood to attention and sang along proudly. After that they had realised we were English and so treated us to a rendition of God save the Queen. We gave them a cheer and showed our appreciation. I was quite impressed. Had this had been a football match we would have been on the receiving end of a torrent of abuse.
Pretty soon the unmistakable rumble of engines could be heard through the trees. I could sense the atmosphere change and the excitement grow. The course car appeared over the crest with orange lights ablaze followed close behind by the front running cars all weaving to keep their tyres warm like a mother duck leading her ducklings. But these were more like caged tigers desperate to be freed to unleash their fury amongst the German pine trees. The sun was beaming down on the paintwork of the cars as they streamed past and down the hill. Air horns, whistles, hooters and horns could be heard over the cheers. I was sure my cheeks would start to hurt soon from the constant grin that was plastered across my face. There was nowhere else I would rather have been at that moment. The next course car led through the second group of cars and soon the final group were to stream past. The field is so big that the rolling start has to be split into three groups to avoid mass carnage at the first corners.
I knew the next car to pass me would be the leading car under race conditions. I waited impatiently for it to come round. It seemed like an age as I readied myself. Then, before I knew it, Whoosh. The Schubert BMW Z4 flashed past in an instant. A couple of seconds passed before the chasing pack followed like greyhounds after the BMW hare. We were racing. Cars continually appeared over the crest towards me and I was firing of plenty of shots to capture them in the afternoon sun against the forest backdrop. A tried various angles and perspective to try and capture the gorgeous machines in an attempt to do them some kind of justice. But there were plenty of places to shoot from and angles to get. Even amongst the trees. I was really enjoying myself.
I wandered down towards the crest towards the bottom of the hill before the right hander which took the cars back up the hill. The majority of the cars were getting air at the crest and I could get pretty close to capture it. The fans opposite that adorned the numerous scaffolding towers and those standing below had a great view. Cheers erupted as cars took to the air. I got a good vantage point to capture the action. Everything had become quite surreal. I had never experienced anything like this before. The track, the cars, the fans, the sounds, the smells, the atmosphere. It was a culmination of the best bits of motorsport all together in the same place at the same time. I wasn’t sure whether to just stand there and take it all in or crack on with taking photos to capture this incredible experience.
I moved further on and round the corner. I was standing behind the Armco as cars were now making their way up the hill. The line they took made it feel like they were heading straight towards me. I was just feet away from them as the roared past. I’m no adrenalin junkie, far from it, I’m even scared of heights, but this was such a good feeling. I was buzzing. Quick glances at the screen on my camera gave me an idea of what I was capturing. I only hoped they would look as good, or better when I uploaded the images to my laptop. Time had flown by but in reality I had been at that section of the track for a few hours. It was time to move on and find another good place to shoot from.
I wasn’t to be disappointed with our next destination, Kleine Karussell. Not a hairpin like Karussell but still a banked left hander. Cars raced through like the wall of death at a fun fair. Like the corners bigger brother, some of the cars jumped out of the exit as the banking ended before they scampered up the hill. Like so many of the other area’s on the Nordschleife, you were spoilt for choice in terms of getting some good angles. I was still hoping the photos I was taking were doing this incredible place some kind of justice. As the evening drew in and the light faded it was a good time to head back to the media room to get something to eat and upload the photos we had taken. My excitement had caused me to forget that by now I was actually quite hungry.
Back in the media room, James was in his element. Making notes, checking timing screens, watching through the window and keeping track of the leading cars on the impressive Ipad car and driver tracker application. I scoffed down some hot stew that had been provided whilst I uploaded the photos and tried to get some kind of update as to what had been going on in the race and who was leading. The night had drawn in and I was pretty pleased with the photos I had taken as I was checking through some on my laptop. The Champions League final was on the TV at the end of the media room. From the German cheers and questions of ‘Are you English?’ followed by laughs on my reply, I assumed some Bloke called Brian Munich had scored. I wasn’t that interested though. Did these people realise what was going on outside? I took this as my cue to head down to the pitlane. As I did the Germans went quiet. Chelsea had equalised.
Down in the pitlane it was still a hub of activity. Some mechanics were catching a few minutes sleep whilst others bustled about or watched the football on TV’s. In fact, most of the garages had the Football on next to timing screens and onboard feeds from their cars. Even some pit walls had the football on. Outside the garages, the pit lane was crowded still. Photographers, Mechanics, Organisers and VIP pass holders all jostled for positions. How no one got hit by a car coming in or going out is beyond me. Or maybe people did get hit and I just never saw. I was conscious that I wasn’t going to be one of them so was on full alert throughout.
I was standing outside the Black Falcon garage as the team had prepared everything for a pit stop as it was obvious one of their Mercedes was due in soon. With up to six or more cars per garage space was at a premium. Some cars had to pit in at an angle between others and get pushed back in order to exit when the stop was complete. One of the Black Falcon team members wandered out with the lollypop board to indicate where their car needed to stop. As he peered up the pitlane into the darkness trying to identify their car from its headlights, two cars came in and filled the spot the team had prepared. Neither were the Mercedes they had been expecting and now there was no space for it’s imminent arrival. With that the whole team grabbed everything they could, tyres in their warmers, jacks, fire extinguishers and anything else they needed and sprinted down the pitlane to a clear spot further down. As they did, the Mercedes rumbled in close behind. It was an amazing piece of team work and I wanted to stand and applaud. Formula One drivers moan about pit stops? They need to experience this!
As I patrolled up and down with my camera in hand, I had become aware from the cheers and shouts that the football had gone to penalties and the Germans were doing well. I wasn’t surprised, were the English really going to beat the Germans on penalties in their own back yard? Of course not. By the time I had got down to the Aston Martin garage the team of mechanics and drivers not racing at the time were all huddled around the TV. There was some commotion. I wandered in and on tiptoes peered over the top of a gaggle of heads. It seemed that Chelsea had the chance to win with the last penalty. I was suddenly a bit interested. It was scored and the British Aston Martin team erupted, drowning out the cries of despair that reverberated from all of the other garages. Chelsea had won the Champions League on Penalties. Pretty Epic. In years to come people will ask, ‘Where were you when Chelsea beat the Germans on Penalties on that fateful night?’ To which I will take pride in being able to respond with ‘Standing in the Aston Martin Garage at the Nurburgring during the 24 hour race’. That response is even more epic. I smiled to myself and walked back into the pitlane.
Back in the media room I checked out the photos I had just taken and glanced at the clock. Midnight. It was now Sunday but there was still plenty of racing to capture……
Friday was to be a bit of a shorter day than Thursday dues to the lack of a night qualifying session, but it was to be no less exciting.
The first session for us for the day was to be the 24hr second qualifying session so we headed straight out to the Nordschleife from the hotel to photograph it. After heading up to Flugplatz we soon realised the Sun was doing our photos no favours, It was another sunny and warm day, so it was decided that we should head somewhere different and come back later. So we headed off and parked at Breidscheid so we could walk up the hill to Wehrseifen.
Walking through the campsite up the hill I noticed again how fantastic the fans were. More scaffolding towers had been erected and some area’s resembled small but busy village communities. One scaffolding tower was created to resemble a pirate ship with disco lights as cannons. There was even a group who had created their own landscape garden with a stream, rock garden and newly planted flowers and vegetation. However, amongst a smouldering bonfire circled by car seats, something really caught my eye. A really nice, shiny green Mark One Volkswagen Golf. But it was just the front section from the bulkhead forward including the front two wheels. It seemed bizarre but all became clear as underneath the bonnet was a gas powered Barbeque grill. This was possible the best Barbeque I had ever seen!
Having made it up to Wehrseifen my grin broadened. This was another great spot. The cars came round the corner into view dropping down the hill and into the tight left hander before a quick right hand bend took them down the hill towards Exmühle and over the bridge out of sight. In the distance you could see the climb up the steep hill through the trees towards Bergwerk. Fans adorned the bank and the hill side on the outside of the corner where we were and the Armco barrier we were standing behind was close up to the edge of the track. There was no need to shoot with a telephoto lens, I had my 18mm in use which was perfect.
Shooting from this point it was soon apparent that there were so many different perspectives you could get from just one area. The Sun was shining, the cars looked superb and the fans were still on top form. The noise of the Mercedes rumbling down the hill or the High pitch scream of the Lexus LFA accelerating out of the tight bend was a joy. Today was another good day.
As the session drew to an end we headed back to the cafe where we had left the car. We had some time before the Classic race was due to be out on track so it was time for some lunch in the German sunshine. For the 3hr classic race we thought we would head to the famous Karussell hairpin. We wouldn’t be able to shoot the whole race as the British GT race one was due soon after and we needed to get back for that, but we made the most of the time we did have.
Having taken to the forest tracks that twisted and turned up the hills we had made it to the infamous corner. Seeing the banked hairpin for the first time was incredible. Again, no pictures or race simulators could do it any justice. The banking was steep and cars bottomed out and sparks flew as they dropped into the corner and again as they exited with some even taking to the air briefly. Again, it was another corner that provided many different perspectives and photo opportunities. There were English Marshall’s on the post at this corner who were very friendly as we were to find out throughout our time at the Nürburgring providing us with tea, biscuits and good conversation. The sights and sounds of classic Porsche 911’s, E-Type Jags and the awesome Warsteiner liveried BMW M1 Procar was just the icing on the cake. A few more images from the Classic race can be seen on my Facebook page or on my Flickr page.
Time must have flown by as it was soon time to head back to the Grand Prix Circuit for the First of the weekends British GT Races. It was a great spectacle and the racing was great. Jann Mardenborough continued to show his form in the Nissan GT-R as he stretched out a lead before the pit stops and handing over to Alex Buncombe. However the RJN team had stopped for half a second shorter than they should have and were punished with a drive through penalty. This gifted the win to the Beechdean Aston Martin of Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard. The cars first win in the Championship. The Full race report can be read here. Also some more images of the British GT can be viewed on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page here or on my Flickr page here.
A new qualifying format for the 24hr race saw the top 40 cars compete in a shoot out format on Friday evening and this was to be the last session of the day. With the prospect of the fastest cars pushing hard to set fast times we made our move to Flugplatz. A long straight with a slight crest at Quiddelbacher-Höle where the front of the cars lift off the ground, some even getting all four wheels off the ground.
I took up my position right behind the Armco just feet from the tarmac ready to capture the action. We didn’t have long to wait as we could see the cars drop down the hill at Hocheichen in the distance before roaring up into view on their out laps. Picking up the pace for their flying laps expectation mounted. The first car, one of the Aston Martins, came past with a whoosh, the front of the car lifted as the front two wheel parted with the warm tarmac. Amazing. The following cars were to do the same. This was awesome. The drivers were showing balls of steel as the crest was close to a braking point. I was in awe of these incredible machines and their pilots.
Yet again the session had passed in a blur but I was left with a great feeling inside. It was time to head back to the hotel and get some rest before the big day. Saturday; Race Day.
As I sit and write this, it seems hard to believe that a week has passed since my amazing first experience of the Nurburgring 24hr race on the infamous Nordschleife circuit. I feel very lucky to have been there shooting the race and taking in the whole incredible atmosphere. There seems to be a lot to write about so I think it would be best to split it into two parts to help ease boredom so the first part will be about the Thursday with the remaining parts over the next few days. I hope you enjoy them.
After arriving on Wednesday, mooching about and getting settled in for the next few days, Thursday was the day that all the action would start. We were staying about 25 minutes from the circuit so it wasn’t too bad travelling between the hotel and circuit each day. The first action of the day was the two British GT practice sessions. The British GT was to be run on the Grand Prix track and not out onto the Nordschleife so I spent the morning wandering the circuit finding good places to shoot from for the races during the next couple of days. Even the Grand Prix circuit was pretty amazing. I never really knew how far downhill the track dropped to the hairpin at the bottom before the cars started the climb back up. Standing on the hill overlooking the Schumacher Esses and the Hairpin below was a pretty awesome sight.
The two hours practice session seemed to fly by and I was enjoying myself in the sun, a total contrast to the poor weather the day before. The cars looked fantastic and a few new additions to the British GT line up for this round such as the Lamborghini and another Audi R8 boosted the field to make it even more impressive. I headed back up the hill at the end of the session to make my way back to the media centre. The Classic cars were making their way out on track for their qualifying session so I paused briefly to admire them. I didn’t stay out to photograph this session. Today was going to be a long day and I had lots to do which meant missing some sessions, but I knew we were going to photograph the Classic race on Friday so It wasn’t an issue.
Back at the media centre we planned out the rest of the day. There was to be a Practice session for the 24hr race early afternoon before the British GT qualifying followed by the first Qualifying session for the 24hr in the evening going on until 11.30pm. We had decided to stay around the Grand Prix track for the day before heading out to the Nordschleife for the evening qualifying session. The media room was impressive. It was huge with good facilities. Drinks dispensers for an unlimited supply of soft drinks and hot drinks plus bowls of fruit and chocolate. Not only that but food for lunch and dinner was also supplied. Everyone there was helpful and friendly. The atmosphere was great and I’d settled in well.
For the 24hr practice session I decided to head down to the pits and shoot from there. I will be the first to admit my pit lane photos are not my strongest point and I was weary of the commotion and hive of activity down there. After all, 170 cars running from one pit lane meant it was going to be busy. Add to that the amount of people who had pit lane and VIP passes and the words Bun and Fight spring to mind. Once the session got underway though I had settled in and was enjoying myself. It was busy in the pit lane throughout the session and the iconic pitlane siren seemed to be going off continuously as cars constantly headed down the pitlane. I still look both ways when crossing between the garages and the pit wall despite knowing cars only come from one direction. I’ve never been able to shake that habit but I guess it’s not a bad one to have.
The variety of cars on display was amazing. Everything from front Running Audi R8’s, Porsche 997’s & Mercedes SLS’ through to VW Scirocco’s, a huge variety of BMW’s, MKIII Golf’s, Astra’s, even a Ford Fiesta and not to mention the Fans favourite and obligatory Opel Manta. The noise, the smells, the sight they provided was just brilliant. It was not long though before the session drew to a close and I was back at my laptop in the media room pouring over the photos I had just take.
I spent the British GT qualifying session down in the pit lane too. Although nowhere near as manic as the earlier session I was there for, it was still pretty good to be amongst the teams and drivers as they set about getting solid lap times for the two races. Jan Mardenborough in the RJN Playstation Academy Nissan GT-R proved his ability behind the wheel of the awesome looking machine by setting the fastest time in Q1 and clinching pole position for the first race. The quickest time in Q2 and pole for race two went to Nick Tandy in the Motorbase Porsche.
We had stayed near the media room during this session as we were going to head out for the first of the 24hr qualifying sessions soon after. We jumped into the car and headed out having decided to shoot from Pflanzgarten. This was to be my first taste of action on the Nordschleife. I was pretty excited but tried not to show it. We parked up and walked to the outside of the corner at the bottom of the hill. The place was packed. There were hundreds of, probably more, fans lining the catch fencing. Bonfires were lit, Barbeques were cooking and scaffolding towers and viewing platforms had been erected by them to get a better view. Music was blaring, Lady Ga-Ga was drowning out the German commentary over the tannoy system.
I got the occasional call from drunken fans, ‘Hallo Photographer!’ followed by a cheer as I turned and put my thumb up. Quite a bizarre experience. You don’t get that at Snetterton! The place was buzzing. It seemed to be more like a popular music festival than a race track. I had never seen anything like it. Even British GT Drivers Aaron Scott and John Dhillon were walking past to try and take up a vantage point for the spectacle that was about to happen.
Pretty soon engine noises could be heard. Through the trees it was echoing. Getting louder and louder. Then, cheers erupted as the first car burst over the top of the hill and dropped down towards us followed by a cascade of others chasing behind. All snaking through the narrow section leaping the crest before baring right and off up the hill and back amongst the trees. I wasn’t sure whether to take photos or stand and stare in awe of what I was witnessing. I could see why the crazy fans were so dedicated. I have witness some pretty amazing stuff in my time, but this was the pinnacle. Cars were blasting through this tight section at breakneck speed with what seemed consummate ease. No run off areas and armco barriers tightly lining the track. Even the fastest cars were passing the slower ones through this section and barely lifting off the power in the process. How was that even possible? I was in my element and just a few feet from the action. The fans weren’t much further away either.
As the evening passed and the darkness descended, the music got loader, the Barbeques continued to fill the air with aroma’s of cooked meat, the bonfire’s threw out more heat and the fans got louder as the beer flowed. Cars still roared past and I was still grinning like a Cheshire cat. Had I died and gone to heaven? Was heaven even this good?
It became dark so we headed back. There was time to do some night photography in the pitlane before the session finished. It was still pretty manic down there. Teams and mechanics jostled with photographers and VIP’s with camera phones as they tried to make space for their car’s that were about to come in. Before today I had worried a bit about being in such a busy area. I didn’t want to get in the way, trip over something or knock stuff over, but it wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Yes it was busy but the teams and mechanics seemed ok with the amount of people about as long as someone didn’t do anything completely stupid. I made sure that wasn’t going to be me.
The session was drawing to an end, the cars were coming back to the pits and my first day shooting at the Nurburgring was complete. The experience was awesome and I couldn’t wait to get back out there. Thankfully I didn’t have long to wait.
The weather has been pretty wet and miserable for the last few weeks and it has been a while since I was last out trackside. I was becoming irritable. However, yesterday was the Media Day for the 2012 Silverstone Classic so I was to head there with eager anticipation.
I love classic cars and of course classic racing cars. I love the fact that these iconic vehicles that are mostly from before my time and worth an absolute fortune, are still raced for everyone to see. Those who remember these race cars get the opportunity to see them again and to revoke past memories and those, like me who weren’t about to see them first time get the chance to experience what they were like and gaze in awe of how beautiful these machines are.
Last year’s Silverstone Classic was a huge success. Over 1100 race entries and a further 7000 plus classic cars on display from various car clubs and societies made it the biggest race weekend in the world. Throw in all the additional things to see and do such as trade stands, fun fairs, live music, driving experiences and simulators and the world record for the most E-Type Jaguars on circuit at the same time and you get a good idea of what a fantastic weekend it was. I enjoyed every minute of it and a real highlight for me was the Group C ‘Dusk’ race on the Saturday evening.
The weather back then was amazing, sun all weekend. A huge contrast to the weather that greeted us for the media day. But after parking up in the paddock behind the fantastic Silverstone Wing complex and catching a glimpse of some of the cars in the garages that were to be out on track during the day, the miserable weather was soon forgotten.
After signing on, having a coffee and catching up with friends, the press conference took place. During this, plans for this year’s event were unveiled. The last Silverstone Classic would be hard to beat, but it looks like expectations will be exceeded. A new partnership with the AA was announced and their commitment to the weekend was impressive. They are planning so many off track activities and driving experiences to keep everyone entertained if the racing wasn’t enough. A number of anniversaries will be celebrated such as 50 years of AC Cobra and to mark the 25th anniversary of the Ferrari F40 more than 60 examples of every school boy’s wet dream will be out on track. The celebrity race line up was also announced and joining regulars like Heston Blumenthal, Dave Vitty & Brendan Cole will be Chemmy Alcott and Sir Patrick Stewart to name just two.
After the press conference it was time to head down to the garages to see what machinery was about and to take part in a passenger ride. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to go out in an awesome 1962 Jaguar E-Type driven by Andy Dee-Crowne. As I was getting strapped in, Andy told me he would need to take it a bit steady in the wet conditions as he had just spun at Stowe with the last passenger on board. I told him not to spare the horses for my sake, but obviously I didn’t want him to damage his beautiful car. The grin plastered across my face as we headed down the pit lane was not going to be moved for some time.
As we headed out onto the track the car sounded fantastic and despite the age of the machine ran smoothly and quickly. Very quickly. Andy told me the brakes would take a little while to warm up so would take it steady into the first few corners. This didn’t deter him from getting on the throttle as soon as possible though as the car squirmed on the exits as he expertly kept it under control. The conditions were wet and the original style cross-ply tyres the Jag runs on meant grip was at a premium. It also meant fun was in abundance! Drifting and sliding through the corners, Maggots and Becketts were especially fun, Andy was working the steeling wheel masterfully, whilst controlling the throttle to time the acceleration down the straights just right. Not only was I impressed with my chauffer’s ability as was in awe of this incredible machine. We all know how far technology has progressed over the years but this 50 year old beast still knew how to perform and put a lot of modern day machinery to shame. It really was a credit to Jaguar and their engineering.
With the brakes up to temperature on the second lap, Andy was happy to push that bit harder and was loving it. With speeds of 120mph on the straights in the wet the E-Type had impressed me immensely. It was great that people still raced these machines and following the AC Cobra along the Hanger Straight, I got my very own taste of what it would have been like to have raced these cars back in their hay day. The passenger ride was over too soon for my liking, mind you I would have stayed out there all day if I could and not got bored, but as we came back into the pits I knew I had experienced something very special for which I was truly grateful to Andy for. The E-Type Jag has now been added to my list of cars to buy when I win the lottery. If only eh?
After a nice lunch back up in the wing complex, I was back roaming around the garages to check out some of the cars there. This years Silverstone Classic will feature 1980’s & 90’s British Touring Cars, DTM cars and Super touring cars so there were some fine examples of these cars on show. Steve Soper’s BTCC & DTM BMW’s were there along with Tim Harvey’s Labbatt’s liveried Sierra Cosworth RS500, John Cleland’s Vauxhall Cavalier, Anthony Reid’s Ford Mondeo Super Touring car and Matt Neal’s Independent Nissan Primera along with a few others. A couple of Porsche 962’s were there along with some more historic Touring cars such as Mini’s & Ford Cortina Mk1’s as well as a selection of historic single seaters. Most of which took to the track for some test laps giving us a chance to take some photos despite the worsening weather. It was great to see just this handful of cars so it really whetted my appetite for the main event in July.
The day was over too soon but I left with a lasting memory and the excitement of this year’s Silverstone Classic. I cannot recommend the weekend enough to anybody. There is so much to see and do and it is a weekend that should be high on the ‘to do’ list for any car fan young or old. It will be a great event and you really don’t want to miss out.
You can find out more by heading to their website here: http://www.silverstoneclassic.com/ and you can see more of my photos from the day on the Chris Gurton Photography Facebook page or in my Flickr Album.
The Easter weekend saw the return of the GT’s. Not just the British GT Championships at Oulton Park, but also the World FIA GT1 championship and the European GT3 series at Nogaro in France.
Unfortunately, do to work commitments, I couldn’t be at Oulton Park for found one of the British GT Championship. Although I was somewhat glad I wasn’t standing out in the dreadful weather they were experiencing, I was bitterly disappointed to be missing out on some great racing. New teams and cars have improved the field even more from last year, with BMW and Nissan joining the manufacturers and rather being there to see them in action, I was glued to the online timing screen, a race ticker and twitter to keep up to date on what was happening during both one hour races.
It was the United Autosports Audi of Matt Bell and Charles Bateman who took pole for the first race. They were to lead for all but one of the 32 laps. Unfortunately, the lap they didn’t lead for was the final one. The Audi had ran out of fuel on the last lap and coasted to a stop, gifting the Ecurie Ecosse BMW Z4 of Alasdair McCaig and Oliver Bryant victory in their maiden British GT race. Hector Lester and Allan Simonsen’s took second in their Ferrari 458 ahead of another Ferrari, that of Duncan Cameron and Matt Griffin. GT4 Honours went the way of the impressive pairing of Warren Hughes and Jody Fannin in their Ginetta G50. At one point in this race, the top six was represented by six different manufacturers, show what a diverse field the series now boasts.
Experienced GT racer Richard Westbrook will partner current champion David Ashburn for as many British GT Races as his busy schedule will allow this season, and this was the pairing that were to start on pole position for Trackspeed in the Porsche 997. The pair also went on to take a flawless victory in the days second race ahead of Griffin and Cameron who performed well in the adverse weather conditions. Third place went the way of British GT New boys Jon Minshaw and Tim Harvey. It was Hughes and Fannin on the top step in the GT4 class, ahead of the Lotus pairing of Phil Glew and Sailesh Bolisetti. An honourable mention must be made to Zoe Wenham. This was her first BGT race weekend and a mature drive in race two saw the 17 year old take third place in GT4 along with Mike Simpson.
Round two of the Championship see’s a trip to the Nurburgring in support of the 24hour race. My media application has been sent so hopefully I will be in attendance to see them battle it out on the iconic German Circuit.
Whilst the Brits were experiencing miserable weather in Cheshire, the FIA GT1’s were fairing slightly better in rural France at Nogaro. Victory in both the wet Sunday race and the dry Monday race, went to the Belgium WRT Audi R8 LMS Ultra of Stephane Ortelli and Laurens Vanthoor. It was a good weekend for the team as their second car of Frank Stippler and Oliver Jarvis took both second places as well completing a perfect start to the season.
The GT3 race was to feature ex British GT driver (and karting buddy) Michael Lyons who has made the step up to join Stefano Gai in the AF Corse Ferrari 458. Race one victory went to the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Sourd and Gregory Guilvert, but disqualification for Lamborghini pair Filip Sladecka and Gerhard Tweraser for ignoring a drive through penalty saw Lyons and Gai promoted to second place after taking the chequered flag in third behind them. Race two saw Maximilian Buhk and Dominik Baumann in the Mecedes-Benz SLS AMG victorious, but Lyons crossed the white line on pit exit after taking over from Gai and was handed a drive through penalty.
Hopes of a solid finish looked diminished for the young Brit, but an incredible drive saw Lyons haul the Ferrari into third place and a battle for second place with the other AF Corse Ferrari during the closing laps. It was just a little too much as Gaetano Ardagna Perez defended his position desperately to keep Michael behind, leaving him to settle for third and not break team rule number 1: Do not take out your team mate.
It was a superb debut for Michael and with two podiums finishes, takes a healthy points haul to the next round. Thankfully both the GT1 and GT3 races were streamed live on the internet so I was able to watch the superb GT racing. Some consolation for not being at Oulton Park.
Last week saw the Motor Sport Vision Racing (MSVR) Media day at Brands Hatch. MSVR run a number of club series from the Trackday Trophy and Monoposto championship, up to the GT Cup championship and F3 Cup so it was good to head down to Kent again to see what was being planned for the coming season. It’s great to see the enthusiasm for club level motorsport and to hear that the race series are being well represented. You should never underestimate ‘Grass Roots’ motorsport as the action is just as good as any top level events and championships are just as hotly contested.
There were a number of cars filling the pit lane to represent the race series under the MSVR banner and most took to the track too, including a very special car. That of the 1989 Lotus 101 as driven by Satoru Nakajima in that seasons Formula One championships. As a young boy growing up in the eighties the latter part of that decade within formula one was an era I remember fondly so it was great to see the Lotus on track sounding like a dream. A very big noisy and almost deafening dream, but a dream none the less. It was also one of the cars which made up my very first Scalextric so it had extra meaning.
Now some of you may recall that at last year’s MSVR media day I was taken around the Iconic Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in a Radical SR3 RS. Well this time I got taken around again but in two very different cars. The first passenger ride of the day was in a Porsche 997 GT3 which will contest in this seasons GT Cup Championships. This was a superb opportunity for a huge GT racing fan such as myself so to be able to experience for myself what it is like being in a car that I have seen in many top race series from British GT & Blancpain to endurance races such as the Nurburgring 24hr & Le Mans.
The weather was overcast and the track was damp but it was going to be a ride I would enjoy very much and my chauffeur, Nick Whale wasn’t in the mood for hanging around. The acceleration was phenomenal from the pit exit and we straight onto the tail of a pair of DB5 Aston Martins, which we made short work of on the Exit of Paddock Hill bend. Breaking into druids on the greasy surface the Porsche remained so stable and took it in its stride. On the exit of the hairpin it was clear how much power this machine had at its disposal. Just a dab of throttle and the super wide rear tyres were struggling for grip as the 997 started to wiggle its rear but Nick was always in control and told it who was boss. On the edge of its limits we sped through Graham Hill bend and along the Cooper straight towards Surtees and McLaren. The Porsche remained planted through the bends despite the lack of grip the tarmac was providing only squirming slightly as it chomped at the bit desperate to unleash the horses which would enable it to power down the straight quicker than a scorned child caught with its hands in the biscuit tin.
Down the pit straight I watched the speedometer rise as it just passed the 200kph mark as the brakes were applied for Paddock Hill bend again. The Porsche and Nick took it all in their stride. Smoothly through the bend, down the hill and back up towards Druids within the blink of an eye. By now we were catching the Green Lotus Evora GT4 and it wasn’t long before we had passed it with ease. I was loving this. However, it wasn’t long before a couple more laps had passed and we were heading back into the pits. All good things have to come to an end but I was very fortunate to have experienced my ride in such an awesome machine. I’d like to thank Nick Whale who manned the wheel expertly and the In2Racing team for letting me experience firsthand what their car is capable of.
That wasn’t to be the end of my on track excitement though. My second passenger ride of the day came in something a little less powerful, a little more affordable, but by no means any less exciting. I was to be taken out by Luke Caudle in a John Cooper Works Mini. Luke had won the JCW Mini Challenge class in 2010 so he knew what he was doing behind the wheel of this not so small Mini and he was keen to show me. We blasted out of the Pit lane onto what was now quite a busy circuit. There were 3 or 4 other Mini’s out along with a few BMW 3 Series from the Production BMW Championship, a few cars from the Trackday trophy contingent and some VW Golf’s from the VAG Trophy and Golf GTI Championships. This was of course no bother as the Mini was quick. Very quick. I knew it was not going to be any slouch but even I was surprised at how fast this car was. It certainly felt it too as Luke made light work passing the other cars on track. Passing round the outside at Druids or darting up the inside at Graham Hill, the other cars seemed to be disappearing rapidly in the rear view mirror. I was pretty sure Luke was having a great time as he cut the kerbs and power slid round bends on the damp track. It didn’t matter whether he was enjoying or not though because I was having a great time. Only my crash helmet could conceal a grin any Cheshire cat would be proud of.
Blasting down the Brabham straight just inches from the pit wall the car topped 110mph as like the Porsche it remained stable braking for Paddock Hill bend. Ok, so it may not have been as quick or as powerful as the 997 by heck the Mini Cooper was fun. With all the traffic on track that Luke was supremely carving his way through it was probably the nearest I would get to experiencing a race situation. One thing was certain, I’d never seen any mums drive a school run in a Mini quite like this, but it wouldn’t half make it more bearable. As like last time it was all over too soon but it was great to experience a few laps in the Mini and it was just as fun if not more so than the Porsche and the Radical’s I have been in round Brands Hatch. So thanks to Luke, the EXCELR8 team and the guys and girls from the Mini Challenge for letting me have a ride in their small but awesome race car.
It was a super day at Brands Hatch and another day I won’t forget. It’s great to be gearing up for the new motorsport season and I can’t wait for it to arrive. You could do a lot worse than check out some of the MSVR race weekends at circuits around the country. They offer a lot of great racing in a variety of cars with very reasonable ticket prices so check out their race calendars.
I’m sure you all remember the case of the mystery car from my blog post last week. It seems there are a lot of you very keen to find out what it actually is and it even had the likes of Martin Haven and the guys at Radio Le Mans scratching their heads. Well, wonder no more. The case has been solved and the Car Identified. I would have revealed all earlier, but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances which I needed to resolve, I didn’t get round to writing this.
After writing my post last week, I got a huge response. Mostly from people trying to guess what it was. However some people did come forward with some useful snippets of information which I used to did a little deeper. With information ranging from someone who thought they spotted it in a race teams truck, to people who had seen it at a track day. Also a few more photos were bought to mine and Graeme’s attention. Working on a few leads, emails were sent out to various people in the hope that I could get a definitive answer.
Having spent hours searching and digging, I had found out who had built the car, but little information was given on their website. So an email was also sent to them. On Wednesday, I received a number of emails back. A couple saying they didn’t know anything about the car but two were of great help. The company I had found, Mark Bailey Racing, did indeed the build the car and managed to give me some information about it. They also told me who they thought was the current owner. The other email was received from the trackday organisers of events which this car had been spotted at. They did know the owner and had forwarded on the email I had sent them along with a link to my blog.
The owner had got in touch not long after with the information we are all desperate to find out. So here it is, in the words of current owner Paul Spencer:
‘I can solve the mystery for you as I own the car. It’s a unique car built in 2000 using Schuppan 962 bodywork and a bespoke chassis designed especially for it. Well done those of you who mentioned 965/962. It’s powered by a Nascar spec short stroke Chevy engine producing 670bhp and uses a Hewland 6 speed sequential. It had never really been used before I bought it 2 years ago and we’ve had to make a lot of changes to the suspension to make it track worthy. It’s coming together now and should end up as a really quick car. It’s as fast as the Group C cars from the 1980s and a bit of a monster to drive. I’m happy to go into more detail if anyone’s interested. I’ll take the car to a few RMA track days this year and may race it if I can find any suitable races to enter.’
I have spoken to Paul via email as I was keen to find out more and see if he had any photos we could use but he is in New York at the moment and said he would contact me when he gets back. So hopefully, there will be more to come on this unique car.
A couple of good photos of the car in action at Spa Francorhamps can be found here.
The Autosport International Show is the first sign that the motorsport season is heading towards us. With driver announcements, new car unveilings and teams setting out their plans for the year ahead, it is a good place for media to get the inside track on what to expect this year and the public’s chance to see new cars and drivers and to get excited about the 2012 season.
I headed to the NEC in Birmingham on Thursday to catch up with friends, colleagues and acquaintances and to set out plans for the coming season. There was certainly plenty to see and keep me busy so much so that I didn’t get a chance to see everything. After signing in and chatting to a few good friends from BTCCCrazy and BTCCBlogs it was time to head to the JRM stand for the unveiling of their new car.
The car that was to be announced was their new Nissan GT-R GT3 car which had already been seen in action as a three race development programme had seen it compete last year including at the Blancpain race at Silverstone in October. Sporting a new Red and Black paint job and a few slight aerodynamic tweaks, the car looked fantastic. With the announcement that the Nissan GT-R will be available to buy I hope to see a few on track this season.
The next announcement came in the form of a new Driver. The AMD Milltek BTCC team had lined up their new driver announcement for the show and Shaun Hollamby unveiled Ollie Jackson as their new driver to mount a charge on this seasons British Touring Car Championship. Ollie drove last season in the British GT Championship in the Lotus Evora GT4 alongside Phil Glew as well as a couple of races in the BTCC at the end of last year so it seems like a good acquisition for a team who are targeting top 10 finishes this year.
After taking a few photos of Ollie on the Pipercross stand, it was off to the Sunoco press conference to hear about the Sunoco Challenge and how Felipe Nasr and Aaron Steele were getting on with their preparations for the Daytona 24 hour race and Grand Am Challenge respectively. It seemed that the pair were taking to it like a Duck to water during the practice days recently, especially Nasr who was setting some incredibly fast times which had regular Daytona 24 hour drivers slightly nervous. It was also good to hear from Mark Blundell during the conference and his take on it all. The challenge, setup by Sunoco, offers a great opportunity for the winning drivers to experience racing in America and help them gain exposure. We all know it is hard for racing drivers to secure drives and sponsorship deals and by being given the opportunity to race at Daytona can open up new avenues in their career’s so it is great to see Sunoco provide this.
Before a meeting to discuss plans with the guys at Britcar, there was time to have a look around the show for a bit. There is certainly plenty to see, from classic rally and race cars, the Ayrton Senna display with a collection of his race cars on show, the new Drayson Racing electric powered LMP car and a number of trade stands to keep everyone busy and entertained. Again this year Ian Cook (Pop Bang Colour) was there on his hands and knees painting some more incredible cars in his unique style. It was good to catch up with him and to see him paint the 1982 Jacky Ickx & Derek Bell Porsche 956. It is one of my favourite ever race cars and the car that won Le Mans the year I was born so I think I will be treating myself to a copy for my 30th birthday later this year. The finished painting is stunning and would look great on my wall.
Having had a productive meeting with Britcar, myself and James were invited for a coffee at the Sunoco stand where it was nice to catch up with Louise who does a lot of their PR during race weekends. Whilst I was sitting down I glanced over to the Corbeau Race Seats stand next to us and my attention was grabbed by an image of the Team Lotus GT4 Evora from the British GT on the back wall. I instantly recognised it as my photo. This was somewhat surprising as it was the first time I knew of it being used. Despite this, it was good to see it up there.
Before heading over to the Charity Karting Race, I bumped into Becki Mitchell who was there working for Radio Silverstone and Kevin McGlone of Red Square Images. It was great to catch up with them both and hopefully will be able to catch up with them again at various times this season. If all goes to plan I’ll be off to the Nurburgring in May for the British GT and 24hr race with Kevin.
As it got late in the afternoon, the Karting Race was due to start and with my friend Nick from Tin Tops UK in a team with Alistair Rushforth, Dave Newsham, Andy Neate & Gordon Sheddon, I went to watch and give him some support. There was a lot of driver talent on show and it was good to see them all fighting it out in the karts. Nick will be writing a guest blog for Trackside Views about his experience so look out for that soon.
As the race came to an end and the NEC started to close its doors, it was time to head home with renewed optimism and excitement for the oncoming season. I can’t wait to back out with my camera and for all the motorsport championships to start up again. However, it will be sooner than I expected for me this year as I will be at Brands Hatch for the Brands Hatch Stages Rally next weekend. I will of course be bringing you news and photos from that in due course.
Last weekend saw the annual Britcar 24 hour race at Silverstone, the premier 24 hour race on UK soil. Once again the entry list was full of a whole host of car makes and models from the front running Ferraris, Moslers and Porches, to Honda Civics, BMWs and a Smart Four 4.
I was there covering the event for the Checkered Flag taking photos whilst the three other team members were providing Hourly Updates and live feeds online. You can check out our coverage and race report here.
The weather was incredibly favourable, unlike last year and the sun was beating down on the circuit. The crowds were gathered in large numbers which was great to see as It is a superb event and deserves all the support it can get. I’m sure those who were there will agree that they were treated to a spectacle. I love covering the 24 hour race as I can get photos from a whole host of places and in different lights. I really enjoy trying to get evening light trail shots too, and although I didn’t get the fantastic red sky in the evening I did last year, I did get a nice sunrise. Also, shooting a 24hr race gives you plenty of time to muck about with your camera and try new things, new angles and find new spots to shoot from. I spent some time in the pit lane too which is always fun trying to get some good shots whilst dodging expensive race cars. You can see a bigger collection of photos from the race on my Facebook group here.
As with all endurance racing, reliability is key and this year was no exception. A number of class four cars finished in the top 10 beating their quicker and more powerful rivals and the Aquilla, which was setting blisteringly quick times, about five seconds faster than anyone else, showed its vulnerability and a host of problems dropped in down the timing screens. As the race headed into the midday sun of Sunday, it looked like it would be an exciting climax between the Topcats Racing Mosler and the Eclipse Motorsport Ferrari 430. However, disaster struck for the Mosler with about four hours of the race left to go and whilst leading when a stuck throttle caused the car to career into the tyre wall at the end of the Wellington straight ending its hopes of victory. It was a bitter blow for the Topcats team who were recovering from having their team base broken into and almost everything stolen. Tools, wheels, tyres, spare parts etc. Pretty much the only things left were the car chassis. It was a great effort to see them on the grid and get everything ready and it was good to see their other two cars, a pair of Marcos Mantis’ finish very respectfully.
This year saw a team of Gadget Show presenters tackle the 24hr race on a simulator from one of the garages. Running in sync with the race on track, Jon, Jason and Polly drove a state of the art gaming simulator. I’m not sure how they got on but I’m sure you will see it on the TV. I cannot recommend the event highly enough and it is well worth going to next year. So don’t miss out.
I’m back at Silverstone this weekend for the British GT and Blancpain endurance series which will be great and then after that, on the Sunday night I head off to the Isle of Mull for the Mull Rally with Andy Rowe and Cat Lund as part of their Support Crew. I cannot wait for that and it will be a great new experience for me which I will share when I get back.
As you will all be aware, there was a Formula One Grand Prix in Valencia at the weekend. You will also all be aware that Sebastian Vettel won it after leading from start to finish. You will be aware of this because it was plastered all over the back pages of the national newspapers and widely reported on the news.
However, some of you may not have been aware that in Germany, there was a fantastic motorsport event taking place on the world famous Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit. It was the fantastic Nurburgring 24 hour race and probably the second best 24 hour race behind Le Mans. You may not have realised this as there has been precisely no media coverage. I even looked on the Autosport website today and there is nothing on there. Just pages and pages of guff on Formula One.
220 cars in over 20 classes took to the picturesque and challenging 25km circuit to do battle in a fantastic encounter. A whole variety of cars took part from the front running Mercedes AMG SLS GT3’s, Audi R8’s and Porsche 911’s to Volkswagen Golf R32’s and Scirocco’s, Seat Leon Supacopa’s, Renault Clio’s and even the new Mini Coupe. Many great racing drivers were taking part, including the likes of Johnny Herbert, Mark Blundell, Alex Wurz and the queen of the Nurburgring Sabine Schmitz.
Thankfully the race was streamed live on the internet and so was commentary from radio le mans so I could watch the great race unfold. Throughout Saturday afternoon and evening there were numerous lead changes between the front running Mercedes, BMW’s, Audi’s and even a Ferrari. Unfortunately due to other commitments I couldn’t watch that late into the night and Sunday morning, but the coverage I did see was very good considering. We all know that Le Mans hardly got any coverage at all in the media and if it were not for the huge Allan McNish crash then there would have been even less. There was a similar crash at the Nurburbring, maybe not as dramatic but as one of the front running Need For Speed BMW Z4’s came to lap one of the many numerous back markers, slight contact was made sending the BMW off track into and over the barrier and coming to rest upside down. Thankfully the driver was ok.
As the formula one Valencia bore-fest was taking place there was still all to fight for in the closing stages of the 24 hour race with a few cars still in contention. A remarkable feat for an endurance race on such a demanding and unforgiving circuit. At the end however it was the number 18 Manthey Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Marc Lieb, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas who took the win with the BMW M3 GT of Jorg Muller, Augusto Farfus, Uwe Alzen and Pedro Lamy just a few minutes behind and the Audi R8 LMS of Marc Basseng, Marcel Fassler, Andrea Piccini and Frank Stippler.
As much as a great race it was you’ll probably have to take my word for it because you’ll do well to find a race report. No doubt the next issue of Autosport will be rammed with pages and pages of Formula One and the uneventful race in Spain whilst a decent report on the Nurburgring 24 hour race will undoubtedly be lacking. Please media, do us a favour and give GT endurance racing the coverage it deserves. Many people, (remarkably F1 fans included) are of the opinion that endurance racing is boring. After an extremely close Le Mans and an epic Nurburgring 24 hour race in the space of 2 weeks, I can assure you it is not.
Last weekend I made my second trip to Le Mans for the 24 hour race along with my girlfriend Liz who was making her first trip to the world’s best motor race. It was certainly a great race to attend for the first time and no doubt Liz will be going again. That’s the trouble with Le Mans, once you’ve been once you just want to go back again and again. Obviously there is some great racing on show, incredible cars and world class drivers, but couple that with the fantastic atmosphere and the amount of things to see and do and you have the recipe for petrol head heaven.
We drove down on Thursday morning and those of you who have been will know that if you took one of those Eye Spy books on Supercars then you will probably have filled it all in by the time you got there. We pulled up at the channel tunnel check-in behind a Lamborghini Murchialago and the services area was filled with various Ferrari’s, Porsche’s, Lotus’ and Aston Martin’s to name a few. Boarding the train we were loaded on right behind a bright orange 200+ mph Ultima, which according to the driver was his toy for bombing down to Le Mans in. Apparently he has already lined up an ex rally Lotus Talbot Sunbeam to take next year.
Having stocked up on food and supplies in Calais, we opted to avoid the toll roads en route to save a few quid. The route was certainly scenic and took us through some nice areas of France. You have to be very careful on the way as the Gendarmerie (the French rozzers) are out in force to cash in on speeding Brits as the drivers of the BMW Z3 and Lotus Elise found out to their cost as the booted it past us only to be pulled in half a mile later.
After arriving at the camp site, setting up and eating/drinking, we headed over to the circuit to catch Thursdays night qualifying session. I’d been waiting months to see the new Audi R18 in the flesh and you had to pay close attention to catch a glimpse as it passed by. They were spookily quiet which meant you couldn’t hear it coming. Just a gentle whoosh could be heard as the menacing beast gracefully sped past. All of the cars were looking great and the two hour session had really got us excited for the race. Funnily enough as we wandered behind the grandstands I spotted my friend James. To be honest, he’s not that difficult to spot as he towers above most people. If you ever go to see a British GT race, keep an eye open for him. He’s usually seen in the paddock or pits wearing a gilet and surrounded by a bevy of beauties. He’s a bit like British GT’s Bernie Ecclestone except twice as tall. Literally.
Friday is the drivers parade so we headed into town for lunch and beer and met up with James and his cousin. We watched the hubbub of everyone setting up the route and the array of classic and supercars on show in the square. Liz and I decided to head for a good location along the parade route and managed to get a spot right at the front getting a great view of the 1991 Mazda 787b roaring past through the French streets. It’s always nice to see the parade and good to see the drivers get involved with the crowd, signing autographs, handing out posters, pictures and gifts. The car carrying the RML drivers had stopped in front of us and Ben Collins was surprised to hear us call his name amidst the mostly French locals, but gave me a great photo opportunity. As did Aston Martin driver Darren Turner. Liz was particularly excited see Giancarlo Fisichella and was in good spirits as we headed back to the campsite on a packed tram. If you are planning on going to Le Mans in the future, I can thoroughly recommend going to the driver’s parade and if you do go to Le Mans and don’t take in the parade then you are missing out.
So race day was upon us and after the morning’s brilliant Classic race, the excitement, tension and nerves were beginning to build. We had seats in one of the Grandstands at the start of the pit straight right next to one of the many big screens and although a grandstand seat isn’t a necessity as there are many good viewing points, it’s nice to have a guaranteed good view especially during the Start and Finish when the crowds are very deep. It was funny to see Jean Todt struggle with the huge Tricolore to start the race as it was as big if not bigger than he was.
As the race began it was clear it was going to be a close battle between the Audi and Peugeot’s and also between the front runners in the other categories. The first hour passed in a blur until disaster struck. An attempt to pass his team mate and a GTE Ferrari at the Esses went wrong and sent Allan McNish and his Audi careering towards the barrier. The subsequent impact sent debris flying everywhere and the dreaded hush descended as thousands of spectators were left reeling in shock. It seemed like an age as we all waited for any sign of McNish to emerge from the mangled wreck but thankfully cheers ensued as he pulled himself out and walked clear. I real testament to the safety of modern racing cars. The image of Audi Team Boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich wiping away tears of relief on the big screens as McNish got out is one that will stay with me.
Unfortunately, this was not to be the end of the Audi woes. As the race headed into darkness and Myself and Liz had took up a spot at Tertre Rouge, the big screen showed a safety car heading out. The guys on radio le mans were as surprised as everyone to see it but then an image appeared on screen. Something was trackside as marshall’s flocked around. It was unclear as to what it was for a while until collective gasps followed by the awful hush as realisation hit that it was the remains of a Car. Eventually onboard footage came up of Mike Rockenfeller heading at full speed towards Indianapolis flashing his lights at another GTE Ferrari. Unfortunately the as the Audi took the inside line at the second kink, the Ferrari move across and clipped Rockenfeller sending him head on into the barrier at 200mph. The car was sent spinning across the track and into the barriers on the other side before coming to a rest. Everyone waited patiently for news before finally it had filtered through that Rocky had got out of the car unaided but was off to the medical centre for checks. A two and a half hour safety car period ensued as over 120 pieces of Armco barrier were replaced. Liz and I took a night time trip on the Ferris Wheel just as the safety cars came in at 1 am and despite not looking it very big from the ground it was a long way up at the top but you are rewarded of great views, so that is another recommendation.
As day broke the racing was still close as the lead was changing with each pit stop and there were a number of battles throughout each class taking place. From my Grandstand seat I witnessed the unfortunate mistake from Jan Magnussen in the lead Corvette exiting the Porsche curves before the Ford Chicane. Losing the back end the Corvette took out the GTE-am Felbermayr Porsche which smashed into the concrete wall on both sides of the track leading to another safety car period as the cars and debris were recovered.
As the race went on and despite the remaining Audi having to pit slightly more frequently than the chasing Peugeots, it was holding onto the lead. Then, into the afternoon and as the race drew near, I witnessed probably one of the most disgraceful events in motorsport I have ever witnessed. The leading Audi had caught the number 7 Peugeot which was running in fourth place with Marc Gene at the wheel. Already three laps down the Audi attempted to pass at the second chicane on the Mulsanne straight to put four laps between them. Gene had already been weaving to kept the Audi at bay and give the second place Peugeot a chance to catch up slightly. However, this time they were side by side with the Audi on the inside line. This didn’t deter Gene, who was no doubt under instructions to hold the German team up, to cut across the front of the leading car on the turning leading to slight contact. Thankfully it was only minor bodywork damage but had Andre Lotterer not reacted quicker it could have been game over. It was a disgraceful move especially after the other two Audi’s had succumbed to dreadful accidents. The guys on Radio Le Mans were incensed and rightly so and sent their pit reporter to ask the Peugeot team boss Oliver Quisnel why that had happened. His casual response was that there were no blue flags. This was a poor excuse as the TV screens had shown there were indeed blue flags being waved. It was an utterly disgraceful show of sportsmanship and totally dangerous. Possibly a result of Peugeots win at all cost attitude at Le Mans maybe?
With half an hour left on the clock the leading Audi and the leading Peugeot in second place pitted for a final fuel stop. It was to prove very close as Audi had decided to put fresh tyres on which, under the rules you cannot do whilst the fuel hose is attached to fill up the car so their pit stop was longer. This was obviously carefully calculated as the Audi left the pit lane just 2 seconds ahead. Thankfully they held on and took the victory by just 13 seconds. The closest finish since 1969.
Other stories worthy of note were, the second placed LMP2 Oreca Nissan and the third placed GTE AM Robertson Racing Ford GT. The Oreca Nissan featured Lucas Ordonez as one of their drivers who less than three years ago had only raced a car on his Playstation. He won the Nissan GT academy and was picked out and trained up to race in the Dubai 24hr race a couple of years ago as the prize. He impressed so much he has since become a professional racing driver and made his Le Mans debut complete with a podium finish in second place. From PS3 to LMP in a couple of years is seriously impressive stuff and shows what a great initiative the GT Academy is. Other debutants were the Robertson Racing team. The Husband and wife team of David and Andrea Robertson were achieving their dream of racing in the 24 hour race alongside fellow American David Murray. Many, including myself had written the team off before the race and assumed they wouldn’t even finish. But, at 3 o’clock on Sunday, Andrea took the Chequered flag and with it third place on the podium in their class. What made it even more special was that they were also celebrating their Wedding anniversary. They were the first husband and wife team to compete in the race and Andrea was the first woman to take to the podium since the early 1930’s.
So the 79th Le Mans 24 hour race had drawn to a close with some great stories and history being made. A drive along the Mulsanne straight round to Indianapolis, through Arnage corner and up to the Porsche curves in my Astra on the Sunday evening completed the weekend and left both me and Liz looking forward to next year.
So the motorsport season starts for me this weekend. I’ll be photographing the MSVR ‘season starter’ weekend at Snetterton this coming weekend. It will be the first race weekend for me this year and I can’t wait to get back trackside. Also, I will finally get to see the new circuit layout at the Norfolk track. On this note, the names of the new corners have been unveiled today so I’ll have to learn them too. In the meantime, I’ll have to get all my equipment ready, batteries charged up and memory cards formatted in preparation. I’ll blog about the weekend and post a few photos next week.
The MSVR weekend will include great racing from the Lotus Elise Trophy, the Lotus Cup UK, Project 8 Saloons, Production BMW Championship, MSV F3 Cup and others. So if you’re chomping at the bit to get out and see some racing then why not get yourself down there. £16 for a weekend ticket is a bargain. You couldn’t watch a league football match for that and they are only 90 minutes!
In other news, I’ve completed another model for my collection. The 1994 Larbre Competition Porsche RSR that was raced at Le Mans. I’m pretty pleased with it and it doesn’t look too bad. I found a great website with all the information on cars, drivers, times etc of all the Le Mans races over the years as well as photos. I was pleased to find some pictures of the car I’ve just built, so if like me you love the 24hr endurance race, then check out www.lemans-history.com Next up, a 1988 Minolta Toyota 88C.
Finally, I’ll be driving my most hated car tomorrow. The Nissan Juke will be taking place with currently £55 pledged to Comic Relief for me to go through with it. Not looking forward to it, but it’s for a good cause. If you wish to donate anything, even just a pound, then you can do here and you will be in with a chance to win a framed A3 Motorsport Print. You can’t say fairer than that surely?
It’s been a while since my last blog, apologies to anyone who has been waiting in eager anticipation for my latest mutterings, but quite frankly, if you fall into the category then perhaps you need to find yourself a hobby! Thats not to say im not very flattered if you do though.
Anyway, it’s been a week or so of ups and downs and rather than dwelling on the negatives, I’ll talk about the positives. This week I headed off to Brands Hatch for the Motorsport Vision Racing (MSVR) media day. It seemed like an age since I was last at Brands Hatch but it did mean the new season of Motorsport was drawing near. A coffee and bacon roll on arrival was much appreciated before Jonathan Palmer discussed the season ahead and introduced the racing series to compete under the MSVR banner. My full report on the media day can be found at TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk which you can read here.
After the presentations of race series and discussions in the media centre, I number of cars from the various representative series were taking to the track. Some of which were providing passenger rides. Two cars to offer this were a pair of Radical Sports cars. As I headed into the garage, I managed to get a ride in the Radical SR3 RS. I was in for the ride of my life. A full report of my experience in the car can be read here. So after this amazing experience I was pretty made up. I’d never done anything like that before but would jump at the chance to do it again.
As I write this, it is three weeks until I will be heading to Snetterton for my first race weekend of the year. MSVR are hosting a number of race series, and one of which, the MSV Trackday Trophy will see the debut of my Friend Julie. She will be taking to the new 300 circuit in a Porsche 944. So I will be there to cheer he on, get some photos and reporting on the weekend.
Other news from the world of motorsport is the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Its been a long wait for the new season to get underway, however, there are far more important things happening in the world that are of higher importance than Formula One and the current situation out there is one of them. Let’s be honest, after last year’s season opening bore fest, it’s probably just as well it’s been postponed. Whether it will be slotted into the already congested F1 calendar at a later date remains to be seen. I had heard that it could slot in between India and Abu Dhabi towards the end of the year.
Lastly, both my 1966 GT40 Model has been finished and my latest model, a 1960’s Mini Cooper racing car. Having spent hours working on the GT40, meticulously paining and putting it together to get it perfect, disaster struck when it came to the decals. The kit was quite old and although the decals showed no sign of ageing or damage, when it came to putting them on some of them shattered and broke. I did the best I could to put them together and it did mean I had to paint the front wing decals. It was disappointing for this to happen after the model was looking really good. There were however no such problems with the Mini and that was completed without any problem. It looks really good and even has an opening bonnet to show off the engine which I spent quite a while working on. Its hard work painting very small parts for the engine but it was very worthwhile. I’m thinking of putting together a flickr album on my account to show the photos I have of them at various stages of the build. I now need to find some more models to work on.
After thinking about it for a few weeks now, a bought myself a model kit last week. I was surprised however at the lack of choice of model car kits in my local, but very good model shop. The bloke said there seemed to be less and less coming onto the market which to me was disappointing. I searched online to see what I could find a eventually decided to plump for a Porsche 956C raced by Stefan Bellof in the iconic orange Jagermeister livery.
It’s been a long time since I last made a model kit and this, surprisingly was the first kit of a car I have attempted to put together. I used to make a lot of model kits a few years ago, but they were all First and Second World War aircraft, so it was to be a slightly new challenge for me. After starting on it I wondered why I hadn’t made a model for so long as I really enjoyed it. It’s great to see it gradually take shape whilst putting together details like the cockpit and painting the dashboard. I became somewhat addictive and it was difficult to put it down.After a few days it was complete. The transfers were on and it was looking pretty good. I was feeling pleased with myself, but disappointed I had finished it. But fear not, after searching around online, I bought my self car number two. A 1966 Ford GT40 MKII, the car raced by Denny Hulme and Ken Miles to second place in that year’s Le Mans 24 hour race. This time the kit is a bit more complex than the previous so may well take me a little longer.
One thing is for certain though, I’m hooked on making models now and there will be plenty more to come and I will keep you updated on my progress.